Town eyes neighborhood Halloween traffic

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

October 21, 2013

Town officials considered street closures and traffic pattern changes to an Elkin neighborhood popular for trick-or-treaters during Halloween.

According to the town of Elkin, every year, more than 1,000 children make their rounds of candy collection along West Main Street. The influx of parents and vehicles creates a major traffic crisis the officials say places children and residents at-risk.

On the table were a series of options that included having police block off traffic at the intersection of West Main Street and North Front Street and at Elk Spur Street and West Main Street, limiting entry to residents only, or blocking off entry even to residents.

Another option was to temporarily change the traffic pattern to a one-way street.

Ultimately, town officials nixed any changes citing logistics and costs, but sweetened up to a signage placement plan that they hope will encourage visitors to park and walk.

“We considered many options,” said Elkin Town Manager Lloyd Payne. “Staff met on this matter and our recommendation was not to do either (street closure or traffic pattern change) but leave it the way it is.

“We did agree to place signage near the bridge going onto West Main Street and signage on Elk Spur Street prior to cutting on to West Main by asking people to park and walk, not drive,” said Payne.

The town of Elkin will be monitoring the congestion to see if the signage placement was effective. Payne said ultimately the parents of the children need to use common sense and not block streets, not continuously move their vehicles as children travel the neighborhood, and motorists too need to take precautions.

“It’s dark, and children are excited. Many are not familiar with the traffic patterns. Many do not look both ways before crossing streets. Many are wearing masks that restrict their peripheral vision,” said Payne. “The best thing to do is park and walk.”

Other safety options are for parents to establish ground rules with their children by restricting them to one side of the street when practical. Parents are encouraged to provide reflectors on costumes — or illuminating glow necklaces that would increase visibility for a driver should a child dart into traffic.

In a walk-through of the neighborhood and a visit to 16 residences over the weekend, the majority of residents indicated they were open to the idea of closing the street to allow local children to have their fun and to ensure their safety, and felt that police should manage a process allowing only residents to enter the neighborhood.

Other residents objected to closing the street, because they believe it could bring more children and cause an undue burden on their lawns and personal property. They also objected because residents attempting to enter the neighborhood would most likely become burdened by traffic leading into the neighborhood.

Some residents complained that because of the throngs of children on Halloween, they plan to uproot from their homes and are spending a few days away from the neighborhood — even though they have young children.

A vast majority of residents were mostly concerned about the budget strain on the household citing the cost of Halloween has gotten too expensive. They said that with almost 1,000 children knocking on their door, the give-a-way requires a growing budget they can no longer afford.

Most residents indicated they’ll park off-street during that night and allow their visiting relatives to park off-street, too.

One West Main Street resident said the continuously ringing doorbell means needed help from family because the resident isn’t able to help the children, and that the doorbell rings even after the lights are turned off, a traditional sign that a home is not participating in Halloween or has run out of candy.

Other residents said that the town must provide support in their neighborhood by calling in extra police saying their neighborhood is the epicenter of Halloween.

A concern for one Franklin Street resident was that people continued ringing the doorbell for candy even as late as 11 p.m.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.

Murray said that it would cost approximately $1,000 to cover the cost of closing the street.

According to police Chief Frank P. Florio, traffic would need to be diverted and he recommended hiring five crossing guards for each intersection, one police officer and barricades at every cross street.

If the road is closed, no residents would be allowed to park on the street.

The council did not make a final decision at the work session. The resolution was added to the agenda for the Sept. 24 meeting.

“I will accept a resolution to amend the consent agenda at the next meeting,” Murray said. “There will be a vote on it.” - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/224145241_Oradell_council_discusses_proposal_to_close_street_on_Halloween.html?c=y&page=3#sthash.i1QCWOCp.dpuf

The mayor also noted that there were other issues.

“Besides the safety issues for the children, there’s the homeowners that need to be considered that need access to their homes,” he said. “The traffic gets thrown into other streets, which are not used to it, and that presents a danger to those streets and the people that live there. There’s no resolution in sight, because nobody knows what to do with 900 children marching out of school and down Prospect Avenue.”

The mayor wondered if other streets in Oradell were better suited for handling the volume of trick-or-treaters.

“Maybe parents should look to other streets in their neighborhood, rather than concentrating on Prospect Avenue. We’re going to have to divert traffic all over the place, if it gets closed,” Murray said.

Resident Andrea Gallagher said the council should consider the safety aspect of the issue.

“I’m here to speak in favor of closing Prospect for a few hours from 3 to 5 p.m. or 3 to 4:30 p.m. We feel it’s a straightforward child-safety issue,” said “We strongly believe it would be a huge mistake to wait until something horrible happens before taking action.

“I know my street has been closed for more than two hours and that’s a hardship, but if these people were alerted in advance that the street would be closed, they could possibly make other arrangements to move their cars to get in and out,” she continued.

According to Borough Administrator Laura Graham, the Public Safety Committee made their final recommendation not to close Prospect Avenue on Halloween. However, the mayor and council have the final say on the issue.

“I think that Public Safety should reconsider their recommendation,” said Councilman Garrie Murphy. “They should close and at the next mayor and council meeting, we should vote in favor of a two-hour closure of the street. That’s my recommendation.”

Murphy also said he thought regardless of whether or not Prospect Avenue remained opened or closed on Halloween night, a police presence should be on hand for crowd control. - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/224145241_Oradell_council_discusses_proposal_to_close_street_on_Halloween.html?c=y&page=2#sthash.0d6byTLm.dpuf